by Diane Winston and John Green
A visiting Martian might be forgiven for thinking that Americans care more about the religion of prospective presidential candidates than they do about the economy, the environment, health care, or even space travel. And, according to a recent poll, a growing number of Americans would likely agree. Last week a Pew Research Center survey reported that almost two-fifths of the public says the candidates talk too much about their faith.
Are the candidates at fault for this surfeit of religiosity, or is the problem with the news media, which seems eager to tout Santorum’s religious “war on women,” Romney’s “un-Christian” Christianity, Gingrich’s “born-again” Catholicism, and Obama’s alleged Muslim heritage?
A new survey of news consumers and reporters reveals a significant gap between the two groups on what’s important and how it’s covered. Two-thirds of the public says the news media sensationalizes religion, a view shared by a little less than one-third of reporters. Significantly, almost 70 percent of the public prefers coverage on religious experience and spirituality, while reporters’ focus is on religion and politics. (Continue…)